Relationship to Attachment Style
Two hundred and ninety eight participants (216 female, 82 male) between the ages of 17 and 68 years answered an online questionnaire containing a scale derived from the Experiences in Close Relationship Scale (Wei, Russell, Mallinckrodt, & Vogel, 2007), Gratz and Roemer’s (2004) scale and Gross and Johns (2003) scale. Contrary to expectations there was no significant difference between the secure group and fearful group for impulse control difficulties. However there were significant findings for differences between secure attachment groups and insecure attachment groups for emotion regulation.
It was concluded that attachment style plays a key role in emotion regulation, including whether those regulations are positive or negative. Further research should be conducted using a more diverse sample, with a focus on gender in order to identity the role of attachment style better. Introduction According to recent research early childhood interactions with caregivers have a profound influence over our capacities for emotion regulation later in life (Diamond, Hicks & Otter-Henderson, 2006).
In fact these early interactions not only influence cognitive-behavioural aspects of emotion regulation, but also physiological processes such as sensitivity to stress and managing stress related metabolic demands (Diamond, Hicks & Otter-Henderson). Attachment styles can be described as “trait-like expectations concerning the responsiveness of attachment figures” (Diamond, Hicks & Otter-Henderson) and are formed by our experiences with caregivers during childhood. More importantly these attachment styles have been used as a method for classifying different capacities and strategies for emotion regulation (Mikulincer, Shaver, & Pereg, 2003).
The original model for attachment theory proposed by Hazan and Shaver (1987) consisted of three factors; these were known as secure, anxious-ambivalent and avoidant (Cooper, Shaver & Collins, 1998). Secure attachment in adults can be defined by the characteristics of self confidence, social adeptness and stability in long term relationships (Cooper, Shaver & Collins). When parents are consistently responsive, children are likely to develop this secure attachment whereby they openly communicate their emotions and form a readiness to rely on their parent when distressed (Gentzler, Kerns & Keener, 2010).
Adults categorised as avoidant display signs of awkwardness when dealing with closeness to others. They are also less likely to enter long term relationships and are generally socially inept (Cooper, Shaver & Collins). Children with unresponsive parents are more likely to develop avoidant attachments (Gentzler, Kerns & Keener). Anxious-ambivalent adults are likely to lack self confidence and show signs of jealousy, anger and fear of rejection or abandonment. Despite the perils they experience in romantic relationships are they eager to enter them and are prone to fall in love quickly and indiscriminately (Cooper, Shaver & Collins).
Inconsistent parenting may lead to anxious-ambivalent attachments. The 3-factor model previously mentioned was prevalent in attachment theory. However Bartholomew and Horowitz (1991) developed a 4-factor model to better explain adult attachment where avoidant attachment is divided into separate categories; fearful and dismissing. Bartholomew and Horowitz suggested that the original avoidant category may “obscure conceptually separable patterns of avoidance in adulthood” (Bartholomew and Horowitz). Anxious-ambivalent is labelled preoccupied in this model, however represents the same as Hazan and Shaver’s (1987) attachment group.
The model is divided into two separate categories; model of self and model of others and each working model can be either negative or positive depending on attachment style. The secure group have both a positive view of themselves and of others. The preoccupied group have a positive view of others but negative view of themselves. Individuals who are dismissing have a negative view of other people but a positive view of themselves and people who are fearful have both a negative view of themselves and others.
As can be seen, the 4-factor better conceptualises the difference between attachment styles and their implications for relationships in adults. In addition to both working models, a scale developed by Wei, Russell, Mallinckrodt and Vogel (2007) called the Experiences in Close Relationship Scale or ECR determines whether a person belongs to a secure or insecure attachment style by measuring their levels of avoidance and anxiety towards themselves and others. For example people who score high for either or both of these dimensions will be classified as insecure, while those who score low on both are typically secure.
Emotion Regulation can be defined as “the set of processes whereby people seek to redirect the spontaneous flow of their emotions” (Koole, 2009). Research has indicated that caregivers and thus, developed attachment styles may play a key role in how an individual regulates their emotions (Southam-Gerow & Kandell, 2002). Previous research has shown that securely attached people are more likely to develop adaptive ways of coping with negative emotions in contrast to insecurely attached people (Cooper, Shaver & Collins, 1998).
The present study will be focusing on three aspects of emotion regulation; suppression of emotions, impulse control, that is the inability to control emotions when upset and cognitive reappraisal where an individual will impose control of their emotions. Differences between attachment groups and emotion regulation, more specifically the aforementioned forms of emotion regulation will be examined in the present study. The study will examine whether or not there is a link between problematic ways of regulating emotions such as impulse control difficulties and the insecure attachment groups.
Additionally, it will be looked at as to whether the secure group employ a more problem focused approach when confronted with emotional difficulties. In line with previous studies (Cooper, Shaver & Collins,1998) it is predicted that the insecure groups will have greater problems with emotion regulation than the secure group. More specifically it is predicted that the preoccupied group will suffer greater impulse control difficulties than the secure group, along with lower level of reappraisal.
It is predicted that the dismissive group will have greater suppression of emotions than the secure group, but little differences in impulse control difficulties. Finally it is predicted that the fearful group will have greater suppression of emotions, greater impulse difficulties and lower levels of reappraisal than the secure group. It is unknown as to whether the dismissive group will differ in reappraisal scores compared to the secure group, so this will also be explored. Method Participants